Women’s Bookstore woes

Toronto Women's Bookstore is the latest bookstore threatening to close

Don’t assume The Toronto Women’s Bookstore can last forever. In fact, it’s on the brink of going down.

Our bookstores are in big trouble. Indie stalwart Pages closed last summer, Atticus Books is now solely an online source for books and now the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (73 Harbord, 416-922-8744) reports that sales are seriously down and they’re about to collapse.

T.O.’s independent bookstores have shown an amazing resilience in beating back that big box Indigo. And eBooks are not huge threat as yet. It’s online buying that’s causing the problem.

According to co-manager Janet Romero, The Women’s Bookstore relies on sales of course books to U of T students close by, but,when they’re not forking over ready-made kits reading kits from their profs, they’re turning to online sources for textbooks.

The crisis is hitting women’s bookstores all over the continent. Twenty years ago there were over 200 women’s bookstores, five years ago under 30 and now there are only nine in Canada and the United States.

“People forget that we carry stuff that you can’t get in Chapters and that we support small publishers and independent writers in ways others can’t,” she says to NOW. “People often suggest we sell more mainstream product but they forget what the bookstore is for.”

It’s not that they forget, it’s that they have no context for understanding the origins of the store. They can’t relate to the historical backdrop – a vibrant women’s movement that thrived on ideas and the thousands of books that promoted them.

TWB has been trying to rope them in with excellent community programming. Last fall, for example, they sponsored the Written In Colour symposium, featuring workshops on grant writing, getting publish and creative writing, all run by First Nations women and women of colour.

But I’m thinking it’s time for some old-school booklovers to stop taking the store for granted.

Its 36-year history is no guarantee that it ‘s invulnerable. It won’t survive unless we step up and donate some cash – any amount will do. Go to womensbookstore.com to donate by credit card.

And or go to the store, make a donation and do some holiday shopping there – right now.

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